Sports has always had the ability to unite people; it creates a bond that connects players and fans in the pursuit of victory.
According to ESPN, the NFL brought in 16.5 million viewers from all walks of life to engage in one common experience.
Dan O’Brien, an Olympic gold medalist said, “The spirit of sports gives each of us who participate an opportunity to be creative. Sports knows no sex, age, race or religion.”
Yet, from time to time this freedom in sports can be tested.
At a press conference on Oct. 4, Cam Newton made a statement that plunged himself into a world of turmoil.
At this press conference, reporter Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer asked Newton a question about Devin Funchess’ routes.
In response to Rodrigue’s question, Newton said, “It’s funny to hear a woman talk about routes.” He then cracked a smile, laughed and said, “It’s funny.”
Silence fell over the room and one laugh left an echo in a crowd of people.
Rodrigue later tweeted after the interview: “I do not think it’s ‘funny’ to be a female and talk about routes. I think it’s my job.”
The NFL agreed with Rodrigue. Brian McCarthy, a public representative for the NFL, said, “The comments are just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league. They do not reflect the thinking of the league.”
For a long time women have felt discrimination in the world of sports.
In 1977, when the New York Yankees made it to the MLB playoffs, a female reporter named Melissa Ludtke was assigned the first game of the series for Sports Illustrated, according to The New York Times.
However, since she was a woman, she was not allowed to enter the locker room and was told that the players she needed to speak with would be brought out one by one.
This rule put Ludtke and Sports Illustrated at a major disadvantage against other media sources that were allowed to have male reporters in the locker room.
In response to this, in 1978 the United States District Courts found that the locker room rule violated Ludtke’s 14th Amendment rights, depriving her of equal protection and not allowing her to do her job fully.
According to the Women’s Media Center, in the sports media alone, 90 percent of reporters are male.
In a male dominated field, a degrading statement like Newton’s can make a huge dent to women in the sports field.
This gap is not just seen in the reporters on the field, it is seen in the coverage of women’s sports as a whole.
According to Center of Feminist Research in the University of Southern California, Women’s sports received 1.6 percent coverage on television news and 1.4 percent coverage on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
National athletes are not only representing a game or a team; they are representing a lifestyle, a way of life that has been cultivated from many preceding them.
While many may feel that Newton’s statement does not hold any meaning, odds are it would not have been said to a male reporter.
“I’m no dummy,” female sports reporter Erin Andrews said. “I’m conscious that everyday I have to prove myself. Being a woman, I thought at some point we were past all this”.
We are reminded time and time again how women are being belittled in an industry that thrives on masculinity.
It is disappointing to see blatant sexisim recurring in a fashion that it has always been seen in, and we are reminded of how much further we have to improve.
Grayson Rice is a freshman journalism major from Cary, North Carolina. You fan follow her on twitter at @RiceGrayson